Pica Pica has had a location in the Mission for some time now and every time I go by the place I always say, I need to try them sometime. But, alas, my procrastination gets the best of me and I never quite make it. Then they decided to open a location in the Castro and fortunately for me, a friend of mine who lives near there wanted to grab a bite one night so I told her to meet me there. Tucked just off Market and Castro street and around the corner on 17th, if I hadn't been looking for it I probably would have missed it. Going inside it's a cute little bi-level place and since we are the only folks here (we are like blue plate special early) we decide to just sit upstairs and look down on everything, plus it makes a better picture.
We are both pretty hungry but decide we want to try a few dishes so we pick 3 that we can split.
First up are the empanadas. You can choose any variation of 3 with either cheese or beef. We get one cheese and 2 beef. They are 3 warm little puff pockets of deep fried dough freshly made, cooked and brought to the table. By themselves they are quite tasty. The beef is tender and juicy and the queso fresco is appropriately gooey melty. It comes with a side of guacamole, which of course I passed on, but there are also 3 dipping sauces, which the waiter whipped through so quickly I didn't quite catch what he said. Thus here's my taste bud opinion of them. The first was brownish yellow and tasted like a spicy mustard, and when I say spicy I mean hot pepper spicy to the point where it pretty killed the flavor of anything it touched. Next was a sweet barbecue like sauce with the consistency of ketchup and it went okay with the beef. Then was a mayo like sauce with a mix of herby spices like oregano, parsley, basil, cilantro and some other things that I actually kind of liked and it went well with the cheese. Overall we really liked these small bites.
Next we had an arepa, basically a grilled pocket sandwich made of white corn (you can also get one made with yellow corn). For the filling we chose the pulled pork with sliced tomato and avocado. It comes with a side of slaw and some taro chips. Before I go further I have to mention one service problem we had. We placed our order for all our items at once but told the server one was an appetizer and we would share the other two. While the empanadas came quickly, sadly the other 2 dishes were quite close behind even though we had barely started our app. It would have been nice of him to have spread them out a little but he didn't and sadly they got a bit room temperature cold, which didn't necessarily serve either of the dishes all that well. For the bits and pieces of the arepa, the pork was tender if a bit plain. The tomatoes and avocado were fresh but the otherwise it lacked a lot of flavor. There was supposed to be a garlic type mayo on here but there was so little of it the whole thing came out a little dry. The slaw was a decent vinegary thing which added some nice texture and crunch like the taro chips, but again not much in the way of flavor. I probably should have kept some of the previous dipping sauces but they had already been whisked away.
For our third choice we got the cachapa, a yellow sweet corn crepe with our choice of filling--chicken--to which they then added guacamole, sliced tomatoes (again!) and crumbled queso fresco. Along with a side of black beans and a standard salad of mixed greens, sliced tomatoes and thin strips of taro chips. Sadly this dish really suffered from having sat while we finished our previous dishes. The crepe got very mushy and kind of gummy, like corn bread that hasn't quite finished cooking yet. Add that mush to the chicken mush and the guac mush and it's all a big dish of mush. Plus all three of the items on this plate suffered the where's the spice at problem the previous dish did. While everything was cooked decently that just didn't have a lot of taste to them. Well, except for the overriding sweetness of the corn in the crepe. Everything could have used some salt and pepper and anything really to just liven it up.
While I can appreciate their use of farm fresh ingredients, I guess I just expected, or wished, the stuff had more taste to it and wasn't so....not bland, but just ordinary. That and of course getting it in a more timely manner so that the dishes were fresh off the grill. They managed to pull these things off with the empanada appetizers and their dipping sauces so they should be able to apply it to the rest of their dishes. At least one can hope for that.